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One Six Right, see it again for the first time

Tuesday, February 9th, 2016

“As a filmmaker you want to be able to affect, move and inspire.” Brian J. Terwilliger


On a bright sunny Los Angeles day last week I was lucky enough to get to check in with movie maker Brian J. Terwilliger at his office in Universal Studios. We had first met in July at Oshkosh when he did a media screening of his latest movie Living in the Age of Airplanes. Brian and I spent a little under an hour talking in July about general aviation, movie making and life. However with the 10th anniversary of his documentary film, One Six Right: the Romance of Flying and its release on Blu-ray, I wanted to follow up.

Brian says he was passionate about aviation since childhood. As many future aviators he spent time making airplane models and watching the sky. He learned to fly at Van Nuys Airport KVNY, and later made the iconic airport his muse for One Six Right.

Sigmund Freud is attributed for saying that a human needs four things to be healthy:

1) work you love to do;

2) love of friends and family;

3) physical health;

4) passion.

When I am working with counseling clients I often describe passion as the one thing that you have a hard time explaining to someone who doesn’t share that passion. Luckily for us aviation-addicts, One Six Right was released in 2005 to help capture the love of flying and the value of our airports.

Flash forward ten years to the re-release onto Blu-Ray. “One Six Right was filmed with a state-of-the-art digital cinema camera, though due to the technical limitations of DVDs which display less than 20 percent of the camera’s resolution, the audience has never seen the full quality of the film,” said producer/director Brian J. Terwilliger. “The Blu-ray is not only six times the resolution of the DVD, we went back to the original camera masters and re-digitized every frame, re-mastering each shot to achieve more vibrant colors and sharper images by using tools not previously available. It looks better now than it did on the night of the premiere!” The anniversary edition Blu-ray includes the special features from the DVD plus the entirety of One Six Left (the companion DVD), including “The Making of One Six Right.” The Blu-ray also features 10-minutes of never seen before air-to-air footage of 12 different airplanes — all in high definition. Watching anniversary edition is almost like watching a different movie. The aerial photography sequences are simply stunning. Click HERE to see the DVD/Blu-ray comparison video.

One Six Right was five years in the making. Brian describes that during the project he was compelled to tell the story of general aviation. I have to admit that I love the word compel. For me it means that the gift just has to come out of us. Now that the Blu-ray of One Six Right is out, I would highly encourage folks to pick up a copy and share it with your friends and neighbors. As pilots we truly live life in three dimensions. Our passion for airports and airplanes is sometimes very hard to describe to those on the ground. Luckily for us we have this great aviation film to move and inspire us.Kids_at_Fence


Perseverance pays off for local high school teacher and students.

Friday, October 9th, 2015
Steve Smith

Steve Smith, instructor. Photo credit: Jeff Gritchen

Steve Smith is a teacher at Canyon High School in Anaheim, California who started an aviation program. This multi-year curriculum takes students from an overview of aviation to potentially passing the written and getting college credits. Talking with Steve about his original idea he says, “My first few years on campus I noticed we had classes such as auto shop, culinary arts, computer science, film and I started to think how cool it would be to have a pilot ground school option.  I sat on the idea for a year or two and then started asking questions.”

Perseverance paid off for Steve after three years of trying. “ I talked with many people at my school, at my district, and even the county.  Everyone I spoke with was very positive and receptive but they couldn’t tell me how to actually make it happen.  Finally, the district hired a new CTE coordinator and she loved the idea and put the pieces in place to get the program approved and created” says Smith.Classroom

I asked him where his love of aviation came from. “You know, I did not have a lot of exposure to GA growing up.  I never even considered being a pilot until I stumbled into the Aviation Sciences department at Baylor University as a sophomore.  They told me that flight training was a required component of the degree program and I remember saying, “you mean, you will let me fly an airplane?”  I think that plays in to the importance of a program like ours.  There are many jobs on the horizon in the aviation industry, and it is important for students to get some exposure now and start investigating the possibilities.”


The Plan:

Year 1 – This class is mostly for freshman focusing on career opportunities in Aviation and Aerospace. Students will see the vastness of the industry and to start narrowing in on what they are passionate about when it comes to potential future employment.

Year 2 –Aviation I exposes students to aviation professionals, concepts, and opportunities while covering the first portion of the Private Pilot ground school content knowledge. Advanced Simulators are used to teach flying skills as part of the curriculum during class.

Year 3 – Aviation II picks up where Aviation I leaves off. Students receive the rest of their Private Pilot knowledge content and can be signed off at the end of the year to take the FAA written exam. Completion of Aviation I and II may allow students to receive college credit should they choose to enter most collegiate aviation programs. Students will continue to train on the simulators as well.

Year 4 – Internship programs with local aviation partners to allow students to receive high school credit while off campus working directly with aviation professionals in ANYTHING such as aircraft maintenance, air traffic control, business, airport operations, engineering, design, or maybe even flying!

The funding:

The school secured a STEM planning grant of $50,000 from the district, which was paid for classroom furniture and two flight simulators. A $100,000 implementation grant from the district this year paid for four new simulators in addition to class sets of Chromebooks and flight planners.

This wonderful program is now operational because an aviation lover, and creative thinker had passion and perseverance. Imagine if we all took one good idea and tried, and tried, and tried.

2015-05-21 11.34.58


Oshkosh,like Disneyland, except you meet your family there, and philotimo: the love of honor.

Sunday, August 9th, 2015
Friends, Fun, Family

Friends, Fun, Family

I have just returned home in the past weeks from my annual trek to EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, WI. I flew across the country in my Mooney with my BFF, Cat. Cat is a private pilot, 8th grade science teacher, C152 owner and OSH newbie. As we sat in our Mooney Girls/Mooney Ambassadors booth we had the pleasure of talking with hundreds of people. Cat was overwhelmed by the amount of goodwill, aviation activities and good old-fashioned fun to be had at #OSH15. She said, “People describe Oshkosh as Disneyland for aviators.” I replied, “Yes but at Disneyland you don’t meet hundreds of family there.”

One family element that was keenly missing at #OSH15 was my dear friend John Kounis. For those who don’t know, John was the Co-Founder and Editor of Pilot Getaways magazine. John and his brother George are a fixture in the General Aviation scene, whether it is discovery of a backcountry strip, speaking engagements, or lobbying the senate in California on behalf of the Recreational Aviation Foundation. John died unexpectedly on July 13th at age 51. The Kounis Brothers as I called them had truly never met a stranger. Larger than life, tremendously intelligent and both exhibited a great love of life and people. They are first generation Greeks raised in Glendale, California.

John and George Kounis, Sacramento Capitol

John and George Kounis, Sacramento Capitol

Recently I flew to Whiteman Airport [KWHP] to spend some time with George and his Mother, Zoe as they recover from the loss of John. As I spent days in their lovely home, I became instantly aware of a founding Greek philosophy, a code for behavior that has no translation into English that seems adequate. Philotimos is seen in the Kounis household, but I also saw it at the smattering of airports I stopped at to and from Oshkosh as well as at the convention itself. I just didn’t know what it was until now.

Philotimos is a critical element in understanding the human co-creative foundation. Literally it means the “love of honor,” and carries a very special sense of honor, obligation, self-respect and teamwork. It was considered as an “extremely sensitive region of men’s souls that gives forth gallantry, nobility and moral pride; it is the sense of honor and dignity.”

According to article I read Philotimo is the principle source of trust that enabled the group to overcome their fear of betrayal, their fear that one person’s unscrupulous or selfish desire would supersede the greater good of the whole. Aristotle observed that that all human actions have one or more of these seven causes: Chance   Nature   Compulsion  Habit   Reason   Passion   Desire Of these seven, if Reason and “constructive” desire were to prevail over compulsion, passion, old habits, chance, and “destructive” desire, then any group must adhere to a code of honor, which would form the covenant of cooperation. [Ninon Chrysochoos Prozonic and Robert Porter Lynch,]

Zoe told me that in ancient Greek times that if a stranger came to your house, you first fed, bathed, and offered the stranger a place to rest. After the stranger had received your hospitality, you then asked the person the reason for their visit. She explained that in this way the person was first greeted, honored and respected regardless of the purpose of their visit. And while I cannot imagine offering the FAA agent ramp checking me Philotimos, I wonder if a covenant of cooperation would be appropriate.



If applied, the implications of this ideal on our aviation community today could be profound. Those who break the bond of virtue by violating honor, respect, and love for one another can no longer be part of the group. Those who embody the rules of honor will cherish the greater good – all for one, one for all – thus being released from the bondage of fear of betrayal, released to explore the unknown together. Anyone who knows George and John Kounis experienced Philotimo in the flesh.

EAA Oshkosh is really a love affair. Over 500,000 made their way across the country to share the love for a week. Imagine if our moral code was to embody honor, love, obligation to others, self-respect and teamwork? How would we protect our airports, how would we welcome non-pilots to our events? Would selflessness impact the way that we inspire flight in the next generation?

I pride myself on being a lifetime learner. I, for one, am going to continue to embody Philotimos in our aviation community. Toward that end, anyone in CA, OR, AZ etc. that would like to join me this Saturday night, August 15th at Fly-In Movie Night at Oceano Airport [L52] will receive a warm greeting, advised the location of the restroom,  bag of popcorn and s’more kit before I ask you if you came for Rocky and Bullwinkle or Caddyshack!





Can a Mentor Really Help?

Tuesday, July 21st, 2015

EAA1Where better to think about mentors – people willing to share their industry expertise with newbies – than as I unpack my car at AirVenture 2015. This place is crawling with mentors.

One of the secrets to success, of course, is connecting capable mentors with the people who need a little mentoring … maybe even quite a bit of mentoring. Since this is my 50th year as an EAA show attendee, allow me to share a few tips.

First, I think almost everyone can benefit from the help of a good mentor. There is simply no reason an aspiring mechanic, pilot, air traffic controller, or anyone else with a keen interest in aviation, should fall into the same dark holes the rest of us have over the decades. Allow us to help you steer clear.

A good mentor listens and makes suggestions to help a student overcome most any hurdle, whether they’re struggling with a particularly troublesome knowledge course, a too-often empty checkbook or the search for a cure to a bad case of the, “I’ll never get this …” We’ve all been stuck at one time or another by “Now what do I do,” too.

The only difference between long-time career people and you is that somehow we’ve already figured out the way around some of the obstacles that been dropped in front of us … and so can you, if you ask for help.

Assuming you’re receptive to the idea, finding a good mentor is often where associations like AOPA, EAA and Women in Aviation can help. If you’re on the road to becoming a professional pilot, for instance, check out ProPilot World for advice from men and women who’ve already been successful climbing various rungs of the career ladder.

mentorIt’s important to realize that a student shares some of the responsibility for a successful relationship, because it’s a bit like dating. It’s apparent pretty quickly when everything clicks and almost as quickly apparent when the chemistry’s not right.

Look for a mentor who’s patient and curious about your life, your story and your goals. Connect with someone who’s more interested in telling war stories than offering help with resources to pass an FAA knowledge test, for example, and you probably have the wrong person. Pose a question that brings only a shrug of shoulders rather than help finding the answer and trust me, it’s just not a good fit. Say thanks to the person and move on to someone else.

I think the key to success in any career is knowing when to ask for help and then being relentless until you find it. I know I’ve only scratched the surface here, so if you find yourself stuck along the way, e-mail me and I’ll help. [email protected]

Rob Mark is a Chicago-based business-aviation pilot, flight instructor and journalist. He publishes the award-winning industry blog, and spent 10 years of his life as an air traffic controller for the FAA. He claims to have been lucky enough to know a couple of great mentors in his life and believes he could have had more if he’d only asked.

Two Mooneys, Eight Paws, Three Pilots and Love

Wednesday, May 6th, 2015

Two Mooneys, Eight Paws, Three Pilots and Love

Three Mooneys Ready to Go

Three Mooneys Ready to Go

A few weeks ago, I was able to fly my first Pilots N Paws [PNP] mission. The day was a testament to what our General Aviation airplanes can accomplish to give back in service as well as install a permanent smile on our faces.

Gary, the Rescue Pup

Gary, the Rescue Pup

The mission was to help Gary, the twelve-pound Shih Tzu get from the temporary shelter in Long Beach to the San Francisco Bay Area. If you were driving that route, it would take eight and a half hours. But luckily for Gary it was #FlyFast Saturday. His total flight time was under two hours.

The first leg was flown by veteran PNP Mooney pilot, John Baker in his 1993 Bravo. John has flown over 100 dogs and cats on their “freedom flights.” His enthusiasm and zeal for the charity flights for dogs and cats is quite contagious.

Mooney 1, John Baker

Mooney 1, John Baker

After John landed we agreed to meet outside Art Craft Paint. We completed some paperwork and unloaded Gary.

My co-pilot for the day is a great friend, fellow pilot and Mooney Girl, Cat. I thought it was very appropriate that Cat was helping us with the dogs.

Cat and Jolie en route

Cat and Jolie en route



My four-legged Ambassador was Mooney Lucas Aviation Puppy who is in training to become a therapy dog. Mooney and Gary had a great time getting to know each other while John briefed me on the procedure for the receiving party.

We took a bunch of photos, loaded Mooney-dog in the back seat, got Gary in his crate in the back and departed Santa Maria airport for Livermore. Gary did a super job in flight, he only cried a little bit. One hour and twenty minutes later we touched down in Livermore.

Happy pilots and doggy

Happy pilots and doggy

I cannot begin to express what the flight did for ME. I had so much fun seeing John again, albeit for a brief time. Cat and I jib jabbed all the way up and back. She flies a cute little C152. She could not get over the 150kts over the ground on the way up and 160 kts. on the way home. The satisfaction of bringing Gary to his forever home was wonderful.

I want to encourage my fellow Mooniacs  and all pilots to use their aircraft in service to others. We have these beautiful airplanes. Let’s use them to make our world a better place. I am still grinning about Gary, a fun name for a dog. Then again, mine is named Mooney!


Instructors to Remember … and Forget

Tuesday, April 21st, 2015

After 40 years in both the flying and communicating side of the aviation business, it’s almost impossible for me to remember that I almost allowed my first flight instructor to drive me completely away from the business many years ago. Although he’s long gone – I hope – the lessons still seem significant enough to pass on today at a time when the industry’s hunting and pecking for every possible student pilot. Lucky for me, another CFI entered my life years later and completely turned my world around.

7FC TriChamp

Photo courtesy Chris Houston

In 1966 I was a 17-year old freshman at the University of Illinois’ Institute of Aviation and anxious to learn to fly. I never doubted my goal … to be an airline pilot.

In those days, student pilots and instructors at the school were randomly paired and I drew a guy named Tom. We flew the mighty 90-hp 7FC Tri-Champ with the student in front and the instructor behind.

School began in late September with ground school and the “Box,” a name we’d all attached to the Link trainer we were expected to master before we took to the air. I never realized I was a bit claustrophobic until the first time Tom sat me in the box, closed the door and pulled the cover down on top of me leaving me in nearly total darkness. We didn’t brief much before we began so not surprisingly, the sessions didn’t go well since I never really understood the point of moving a control stick inside a dark little room as dials and gauges spun like mad before my eyes. Looking back on it today, I realize Tom talked a lot, asked few questions and simply assumed I was following. Another was that I hadn’t yet flown the airplane. Finally one day I did.Link_Trainer

I clearly loved every moment in the air despite being nearly clueless about what I was supposed to be doing, except for reminders from the back seat like … “what are you doing that for?” It was at about the five-hour mark that things started to get really ugly because I just didn’t seem to be coming together. I remember landing practice. Right near the pavement on the first few, Tom started yelling … “Flare, flare, flare.” Crunch! The Tri-Champ was pretty forgiving despite hitting hard enough to knock the headset off my head a few times. After an hour of that we taxied in and shut down. Tom grabbed my shoulders and shook me hard from the back seat. “Why didn’t you flare when I told you too?” Somewhat worn out I just stared out the windshield and asked, “What’s a flare?”

I actually managed to solo the next week and was cleared to the pattern alone which helped my confidence enormously. But soon I was back in the Tri-Champ and the Link with Tom and the yelling never ended. To make matters worse, he began slapping me along side the head and yelling when I screwed up. With 15 hours total time, I finally broke. At 17 I knew I would never learn to fly. I quit school AND flying and never touched the controls of another airplane.

Until …

Jump ahead five years as I arrived to my last Air Force duty station. How I got there is too long a story right now. It’s what happened next that’s important.

Within a few days of arrival I located the base flying club. Outside the main door near the aircraft parking area sat a small set of stadium seats near the fence. I’d spend time there watching the Piper Cherokees come and go, some with two people inside, some with just one. I didn’t go into the clubhouse though.

One day, as one of the airplanes pulled up near the fence where I was eating my lunch, the engine didn’t shut down. The guy in the right seat seemed to be engaged in a conversation with the pilot. Finally the door opened, the guy in the right seat hopped out and shut the door patting it a few times after he did. As the airplane pulled away the right seat guy came over to the seats saying hi as he did. Half an hour later the Cherokee returned and the guy next to me left to greet him. Later I learned the pilot was on his second supervised solo and the fellow who’d waved to me was his instructor.

Maybe aRob in a 605 copy week or so later I’m back out on the seats just watching the airplanes when that same instructor comes out of the clubhouse door. He looks around and happens to see me so he walks over to the fence. “Why aren’t you out there flying on such a beautiful day,” he asks. “I’m not a pilot.” “Really?” he says. “You sure hang around here a lot for a guy who doesn’t fly. My name’s Ray. Stop in one of these days,” he said before turning away toward one of the airplanes. The challenge glove had been thrown down.

I didn’t go back to the viewing stand the rest of that week. It was simply too scary to think of being close to something I really loved but had already failed at.

The next week though, I did go back, but only back to the seats. To this day I think Ray was watching for me because he came out of the clubhouse door and waved … “Well, are you coming in?” I sighed deeply but got up and walked over and in the clubhouse door. And that, as they say, was that. Over some coffee, I told Ray my story of failure. Didn’t even slow him down because an hour later we went out flying … and I never stopped again. I went on to earn my ATP and my own flight instructor ratings, fly for a couple of airlines, a charter company and a couple of Part 91 corporate flight departments. As an aviation writer, I even managed to grab a couple of hours in an Airbus A-380. It has all been just so sweet.

My instructor Tom nearly ended my aviation career, but luckily there was another fabulous instructor like Ray out there waiting to offer me a hand up with a little encouragement, which is all I apparently needed.

Today I wonder how many instructors like Tom are still out there. Trust me, one like him is one too many.

So do us all in the industry a favor and offer a ride to that kid sitting outside the fence if you have the chance. You might just change their life.

Wings and Wheels: Encouraging visitors to be guests in our communities

Sunday, February 8th, 2015

We fly for pleasure, business, recreation and charitable purposes. Wouldn’t it be nice if after the wings are done flying we had some wheels to get us to a nice restaurant for lunch, or to our hotel or nearby scenic attraction? My hope is that after reading my little blog a couple dozen of you might add to the list of airports that have bicycles available for pilots flying in.

Oceano Airport Fly 'n Ride

Oceano Airport Fly ‘n Ride

At L52 Oceano Airport in California we are, to the best of my knowledge one of the closest public airports to the Pacific Ocean. Long ago bikes were available for guests. They were painted orange and said “Oceano Airport.” They were leaned up against the fence and folks would take them and ride to Pismo Beach for some clam chowder or a walk on the pier. I was told that if any of the bikes were found in town abandoned, someone would throw them in a truck and bring them back to the airport. Fast-forward to 2010. Friends of Oceano Airport in conjunction with an airport-based business Empirical Systems Aerospace brought back the Fly ‘n Ride, only this time contained in a Rubbermaid shed that is locked to keep children from accessing without parent supervision. The bikes have combination locks, and there are helmets and a tire pump in the shed.

Fun Wheels for the Beach

Fun Wheels for the Beach

Our Fly ‘n Ride works on a donation basis. Folks are pretty generous, dropping a few bucks in the bucket, which allows us to buy tubes and tires as needed. We have a liability waiver that we ask folks to sign. I distinctly remember the conversation with the risk management lawyer of San Luis Obispo County. Initially she wanted us to insure the bikes, in case someone was injured or even died. I asked her, “If your friend loaned you a bike and you fell off and broke your ankle, would you sue your friend?”  “Yes” she said and I replied, “Then you do not understand the culture of General Aviation and G.A. Airports. When we fly to some airports and you need a ride into town someone will throw you keys to the courtesy car, with no questions asked.” We compromised with the waiver. It basically says if you fall down, you are in charge of getting your own Bactine.

Our local University and Sheriffs department collect hundreds of bicycles every year that are abandoned, recovered or impounded. Initially we applied for several of those bikes, which were free. For our purposes however a multi-gear bike with hand brakes was way too much maintenance for a beach-side airport. Now we have three or four beach cruisers for our airport guests. Yes, I call them guests. I think we should all treat folks who fly into our airports as guests. Make them feel welcome, speak to them, offer a ride to town. Better yet, why not set up a Fly ’n Ride at your home airport. It really doesn’t cost much, and it will increase not only traffic to your local businesses but will increase your airport’s goodwill factor. Below is a table of the airports that I know about around the country that have bikes available. If your airport has them and is not on the list, please take a moment to put the details including identifier, name/state and any notes in the comments section.

Airports with Bikes

Airports with Bikes

I grew up in the right or back seat of a Bellanca then a Mooney. While the bikes wouldn’t have worked for a family of four necessarily it would have been something fun to do while waiting for my Dad to do the pre-flight or fuel up. We can all do something at our airports to make it more welcoming to our guests. If you come into L52 Oceano California, make sure to grab a bike head left out of the airport and make your first left on Pier, a few blocks down is one of the prettiest beaches in the world, our little slice of paradise.

Fly HighThis blog is dedicated to the memory of my father, James Lucas who flew West this week. Godspeed and tailwinds, Dad.


Flight’s Universal Appeal

Thursday, December 11th, 2014

Richard L. Collins, possibly the most prolific and insightful of all General Aviation journalists, observed that our community spent inordinate attention on business uses of private aircraft when in fact flying was good fun and personally rewarding. While I would not be so bold as to speak for him, I suspect he would advocate that operating a GA aircraft for any purpose was an endeavor worth pursuing—provided we did so safely and with a modicum of proficiency.

Each person who flies has his or her own reasons for being an aviator. Freedom, control, participating in a unique activity that most people have not experienced, achieving the level of proficiency needed to be designated a “pilot”, seeing the world from a new perspective—all such attributes are worthy goals. Add to those motivations the ability to travel swiftly to interesting places, perhaps for business reasons or possibly just for fun, and I wonder why more people do not embrace General Aviation.

I contend that gaining what General Aviation can offer, and doing so with sufficient and justifiable confidence that a planned trip can be flown as scheduled, requires a significant level of knowledge and skill. Considerable time and attention is needed to achieve that competence, and far too many people decide that the gain of becoming a pilot is not worth the pain of becoming a pilot. Unfortunately, about 50 percent of individuals who demonstrate sufficient motivation to obtain a student certificate and invest in initial instruction, even to the level of flying solo, drop out before they become a Private Pilot. About half of newly certified Private Pilots do not fly more than about 100 hours total before they let their physical lapse, thereby becoming inactive. While cost is certainly a factor in the decision not to pursue flying, I contend it is not the prime cause of the dropout phenomena. There are other popular activities, hobbies and passions far more expensive than private flying.

Based upon the broad spectrum of responses to my November offering for AOPA’s Opinion Leaders blog (Let’s Use Drone Technology to Expand Business Aviation), the word drone excites many emotions. Drone technology—use of GPS to fly a precise course, and data link capabilities to monitor the vehicle’s operational health during all phases of flight—is sufficiently well known and reliable to be applied to General Aviation aircraft in such a manner that operating a GA aircraft could be significantly simpler and predictable. No, the advanced GA aircraft would not be a drone—it would require a certified pilot with a specified level of recent experience to be legal.

The aircraft’s design, however, would incorporate sufficient technology to reduce pilot workload, avoid other aircraft and always operate within the allowable flight envelope.

I contend that if GA aircraft were more “operator friendly”, more people would chose to operate GA aircraft—for pleasure, for business or preferably for both business and pleasure.

What is Business Aviation?

Friday, October 17th, 2014



Many opinion leaders prominently featured in media and other communication channels, including social networks, know very little about Business Aviation. In fact, the entire segment of we call General Aviation is a mystery to most of the public.


We define General Aviation by what it is not: It’s not the airlines, it’s not military aviation. Those broad classes of aviation are familiar to the public and easily identified.  GA is everything else.  Something is missing when we fail to identify General Aviation by its unique characteristics and benefits.


Residing under the wide umbrella of General Aviation is the segment we call Business Aviation. Little wonder that the use of general aviation aircraft for business transportation—i.e., Business Aviation—is not well understood. Consequently our community too often is the target for pejorative rhetoric by politicians as well as some who wish to stir discontent and envy between different economic strata.


Business Aviation is simply a highly useful and productive form of air transportation. It is not a substitute for the airlines. The use of business aircraft is complementary rather than competitive to scheduled air carriers, providing access to 10 times the number of airports that have any form of airline service and 100 times the locations with business-friendly schedules. Business Aviation provides access by air to locations the airlines do not serve and do not want to serve. Travel between many places in rural America and throughout the world is not economically viable for the scheduled air carriers.


Furthermore, Business Aviation itself is broad, encompassing aircraft of all types and sizes used in various applications ranging from owner-flown business trips to charter, fractional ownership and corporate flight operations.


Corporations and entrepreneurs need to travel. Even in this age of Internet and smartphones, nothing replaces the benefits of being face-to-face with clients and business partners. Thus when companies must position their people to various locations, they select the scheduled airlines when that form of transport provides the most cost-effective means of movement and Business Aviation when using a business aircraft provides a more productive use of travel time. Studies by leading research firms such as Harris Interactive show that business aircraft are highly effective in adding productivity to a business person’s travel time. Nearly 75 percent of passengers on company-owned aircraft are middle managers or technical specialists, not Mahogany Row types.


Thus it is understandable that member companies of the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA), the world’s most active users of business jets, spend billions of dollars annually on airline tickets. When Robert Crandall, at the time President and Chairman of America Airlines, was the keynote speaker at the NBAA’s 50th anniversary meeting, he said it was his pleasure to address his “best customers”.


On a recent trip to Washington, DC, I spent a few minutes at the National Air and Space Museum’s mall location. More than a decade ago, the NBAA sponsored an exhibit called “Business Wings” to provide a platform for expanding the public’s understanding of why companies use business aircraft. The program occupied a sizable portion of the westernmost wing of the first floor hall and was seem by over 2,000,000 visitors during its two year or so run at the museum. Some aspects of the display remained for several more years.


I was disappointed to find no reference to Business Aviation during my brief jaunt through the NASM’s location in the heart of our nation’s capital. I understand that there is reference to business aircraft at the Museum’s Hazy Center at Dulles, however. Educating the public and their opinion leaders is a practical necessity for obtaining legislation that assures access to airspace and airports for business aircraft as well as reasonable fees and taxes associated with Business Aviation. It is in our collective best interests as aviators with the knowledge and appreciation of all aspect of General Aviation to seize each opportunity to communicate the good news of our community.

Reflections on Being an Aviator

Friday, September 19th, 2014

Serious aviators share a common characteristic—their passion for flight. Whether he or she is a professional earning a living in Business Aviation or a private pilot enjoying the magnificent foliage of a fall weekend, aviators go aloft to experience something very special and fulfilling. Aviation is a meaningful motivator for their way of life. It is an expression of how they feel about themselves and about their confidence to perform. I know no one who became a professional pilot because their parents forced them into that career. Similarly, when asked why they earned a pilot’s certificate, most individuals say they always wanted to fly. Such is the magnetism of aviation.

Thomas Watson, Jr., CEO of International Business Machines from 1956 until retiring in 1971 on his doctor’s advice following a heart attack, reflected the role that aviation can play in a person’s life. From his first solo (which he proudly noted in his autobiography Father, Son & Co. that he accomplished after only 5.5 hours of instruction) until his death in 1993, he maintained a passionate attraction to flight.

In 1977 I met Mr. Watson at Norwood Memorial Airport, a few miles southwest of Boston, Massachusetts, where he had just completed his first solo flight in a Bell Jet Ranger. After being introduced and photographing him flying the helicopter, I boarded his North American Sabreliner and watched him pilot (as captain) the business jet to Knox County Regional Airport, about 85 miles north of Portland, Maine, where he was the principal benefactor of the Owls Head Transportation Museum. There he parked his business jet, donned goggles and cloth flying helmet and took off in a restored Newport WWI fighter. After a few low passes, he landed and proceeded to get into a beautifully rebuilt Spad, also a survivor of the Great War, and piloted the aircraft through its paces. After lunching on Maine lobster, he mounted a Spitfire for a dust-up of the field. That sortie complete, Mr. Watson excused himself, boarded his Sabreliner and flew back to his home north of New York City.

Piloting sophisticated aircraft was nothing new to Thomas Watson, Jr. Since his days as a student at Brown University, to being commissioned as a second lieutenant in the 102nd Observation Squadron of the New York National Guard (an assignment he sought when he learned that a civilian pilot with more than 300 hours of flight time could be designated a pilot without going through Army Air Corp training), to his 2,500 hours flying a Consolidated B-24 throughout WWII as personal pilot for General Follett Bradley, to being checked out the IBM’s business jets, Watson was the consummate aviator.

During lunch at the Owls Head Museum, I asked Mr. Watson why he devoted his time and resources to the preservation of old aircraft. His response was simple: He owned his carrier at IBM to aviation.

Claiming to be a mediocre student and lacking experience in business, he said the only endeavor where he felt successful was flying. In fact, as WWII was concluding, Watson lined up a piloting job with United Airlines. Discussing his post-war plans to join the airlines with General Bradley, his war-time boss’s response was “Really? I always thought you’d go back and run the IBM company.”

Mr. Watson said he had no sinecure at IBM. His father owned too few shares at the company to dictate who would succeed him. Thus he responded with a question. “General Bradley, do you really think I could run IBM?”

“Of course”, was the General’s response.

Mr. Watson said General Bradley’s answer, so positive, provoked his introspection. He had accomplished many challenging tasks while serving as the General’s pilot. Yes, he thought, I can take on unknowns and be successful. Without the confidence that being an aviator installed within him, he said he would not have gone to IBM. He felt he owed his career to aviation.

As a footnote to this blog, Mr. Watson told me not to relate our conversation in the publication that had asked me to meet him on that date in 1977. Subsequently the reason for his command was clear: Thomas Watson, Jr. recounted his discussion with Follett Bradley in Father, Son & Co., published first in 1990.